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Entries in Travel (56)

Thursday
Jun022005

PalmSource DevCon: Day Three

devcon-paper.jpgWednesday began with a breakfast meeting with my friends Bryan and George at Natara, and my partner in crime, Michael Ashby. I'd been looking forward to introducing the Natara boys to Michael, who I think may be the world's biggest Bonsai and DayNotez fan.

Over freshly brewed coffee, the four of us discussed the conference, PalmSource's direction with Linux, Natara products, blogging and more. Bryan has been a reader of my blog for a while now, often leaving comments here. He's also a bit of pen freak like me, and begged that I not mention any more pens on the blog, because he feels compelled to try anything I suggest. Bwahahaha! :-)

I also had a chance to get to know George a little better, and ask some detailed questions about his baby, Bonsai. As a former Brainforest and current ShadowPlan user, I was curious to see the benefits of Bonsai on the Palm. George was kind enough to do an on-site demo, and I was duly impressed. I especially like the clean user interface and several features of the app.

Of course Michael and I gently hammered on both guys about Mac sync, though I do know they have limited resources for this. Bryan is actually a Mac user, so our pleas were not lost on them. in fact they hear the same request from Mac users all the time. I know they'd love to support a Mac outliner like OmniOutliner, so we talked a bit about how Michael and I might help move that forward. The most promising solution would be a conduit, working in conjunction with The Missing Sync. We'll have to see what we can do to keep the dream alive.

Emotional Design
i was very excited about the keynote for Wednesday with Don Norman of the Nielsen Norman Group. Norman's talk centered on how emotions play a part in our reactions to the things we work with, even at the lowest levels. He touched on the importance of design, especially with the mobile devices people will carry in the future. It was an excellent talk.

I was very pleased to see a design talk integrated into the conference, especially for developers who might have the tendency to place design last in their list of tasks. I informally polled the developers and friends I spoke with about the Norman session and they all enjoyed it thoroughly — a good sign. In fact, the most impressed of my contacts were those who had low expectations for Norman's session!

The Rome Project
Larry Slotnick spoke after Don Norman, and presented the 'Rome' project from PalmSource — more or less a spec that's aimed at so-called "Feature Phones" with small screens and more phone-oriented options (d-pads, buttons and phone keys). It was good to see PalmSource embracing this space, and I do hope they can bring some of their UI expertise to this new OS variation.

LifeDrive Hands-On Experience
During Slotnick's talk, I had a chance to play around with a Life Drive owned by two of the people seated at my table, one of which was Justine Pratt of Creative Algorithms. My first concern about the LifeDrive is the size, and happily it's much less of a brick than I first feared. The shaped back of the device helps with this, though I still have to say, the size, especially the length is right at the edge of pocket-ability.

Construction of the device seemed solid, with metal case, and a nice overall tactile feel. The screen is gorgeous and the buttons and D-Pad very nicely designed. I did notice a bit of an OS lag however, as reported by others who have reviewed the device. It was pretty minimal, but noticeable, especially after coming from my speedy Zire 72.

I've heard reports of around 2.5 hours battery life at fill tilt (watching movies off the drive), longer with MP3 play and even longer for regular use. I suppose this is an achievement considering the hard drive, big screen and stagnation of battery technology in general. I think there's a built-in expectation of old Palm users that the battery should last weeks, as it used to in Palm Pilots of years ago. While I'm sure that would be wonderful, I think we old-timers need to accept that where we're going (at least for LifeDrive-like products) is going to be more laptop than a handheld-oriented in power. I wish it were otherwise, but that's the reality, at least today.

Overall, I was impressed with the LifeDrive. I think despite its imperfections, LifeDrive represents a decent first step into a space that will exist along side phone-oriented devices. While I'm still very pleased with the balanced features of my Zire 72, I could see myself enjoying a LifeDrive.

Expert Guides Luncheon
Following more User Council meetings, Jen Edwards and I met up with Eric Cloninger and Ivan Dwyer of PalmSource and Michael Yokoyama author for a lunch together. Jen, Michael and I are 3 of the many PalmSource Expert Guide authors attending DevCon, so we were invited to a lunch on PalmSource for our efforts in this area. Expert Guides are web resources at the PalmSource site aimed at helping Palm OS users find applications to achieve certain tasks, in my case, writing with a Palm-powered device.

We had a very tasty lunch at a local Thai restaurant a few blocks from the Fairmont, talking Palm-stuff (of course) and other things as well. Near the end of lunch Michael Mace stopped over and chatted with us a while. He updated us on the state of Expert Guides and his desire to continue their expansion into new areas. So, if you have a unique idea for an Expert Guide, please apply!

Meeting The Etherfarmer
Between User Council meetings, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow designer and Etherfarm blogger, Narayan Nayar. He and I have had email exchanges and have worked on a project together, so we decided to try and meet briefly in person. Using my mobile phone's SMS and voice services, Narayan and I were able to coordinate a meet up in the hotel lobby. We were able to talk about DevCon, Treos, Palm on Linux, design and Narayan's cool new corporate job in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, he had to head back to beat traffic, but I still very much enjoyed the quality time had. Thanks Narayan!

USB Drive Burners
After the User Council meetings were finished for the day, the Council was tasked with copying PDFs of the session presentations onto 350-some 128MB USB drives. The group established a little assembly line process and within 40 minutes we had the job nearly completed. We had only a minor error at the end, finding 3 USB drive caps separated from their drives. We dug through nearly every closed box to locate the 3 cap-less drives, but did complete our mission successfully. :-)

Party Time
Our timing was perfect, as the DevCon party began minutes after we'd finished our work for the day. In a private room in the hotel, a band was set to play on stage. Food and drink of all sorts was set out for the attendees, so our crew showed our DevCon badges and walked in to enjoy the fun. The food was very tasty, and the band was OK, but not spectacular.

Craig of our group was on a mission to win a new Treo 650 in the SplashBlog contest, by shooting the most photos and posting them with SplashBlog. You can check out the DevCon group SplashBlog here to see some of his shots.

Walgreens Run, Thwarted
Michael Ashby, his wife Holly and I decided to leave the party a little early to hit the local Walgreens. It was good to leave the hotel confines and get outside. Within a few minutes we'd arrived at Walgreens, which had closed at 9pm. Bummer. In fact, I think Michael and I tried this same run in 2004 to find the place closed at 9. I need to make a note to get over there earlier in 2006.

Hanging with Kerry Woo & Dave David Kendall
I grabbed by Powerbook and headed to the lobby to write and catch up on email, but ran into one of my blogkids, Kerry Woo, some folks from Motricity (PalmGear.com) and Dave Kendall chatting. Kerry convinced me to skip the laptop time for chatting (and I agreed), so we hung out for a while.

I learned more about Kerry's work and his commuting lifestyle between Nashville, Tennessee and Durham, North Carolina. Wow, what a life the guy leads, living in North Carolina and flying home every 6 weeks or so for long weekends. I don't think I could do it.

Dave Kendall leads an interesting work life at UltraSoft, working very much as I do, from home and in collaboration with others around the world. His company, UltraSoft, develops UltraSoft Money, DataShield and one of my old-time faves, Brainforest.

Both guys were very fun to talk with, each sharing great stories about their lives and Palm-related experiences. Even though we were all night owls, the fatigue of the long DevCon day set in. We called it a night around 1am (I think), to get a little sleep before getting up to do DevCon again on Thursday.

Wrapup
I was pleased to experience another fun, busy day. As the DevCon progressed into day 2, I sensed that energy and excitement levels were rising. The addition of Linux under the hood seemed to offer developers a gleam of hope for the future that just wasn't there in 2004. We'll see of that sense of hope continues Thursday and on into the following months.

And with that, I'll wrap up Wednesday's entry. Until next time...

Tuesday
May312005

PalmSource DevCon: Day Two

devcon-hotel.jpgAfter a busy Monday settling in a meeting old friends, I was ready on Tuesday for my first full day of the DevCon. I found coffee and settled in for the keynote, wondering what the scoop might come from outgoing PalmSource CEO David Nagel.

The Keynote
What a surprise we got, learning that PalmSource had sold rights to the "Palm" name to palmOne for some 30 million bucks. Wow. As the news sunk in though, I found myself thinking it's a good move. I constantly see and hear conversations where the whole "PalmSource vs. palmOne" naming issue truly confuses people — even long-time Palm fans. Better to move it back to the "hardware" guys where it seems to have more connection. Now PalmSource has the challenge of finding a new name that's memorable and fits their new direction.

Powered Up Award winners are announced: SplashBlog (photo blogging tool), Quicknews (RSS reader), Village Sim (Simulation game) and The Missing Sync for Palm OS (Mac OS X sync tool) and all 4 seem very worthy recipients. I actually need to investigate Missing Sync for myself, as its features are looking more and more compelling.

Chris Dunphy of PalmSource demoed the new PalmSource Installer, which can install Palm OS apps and databases via web to sync or even better, over the air (like to a Treo). I was able to play a bit beforehand with the installer and it's very nice — even supports Macs! I do hope developers embrace this new tool as I think it makes the user's life easier and therefore will likely make sales increase for developers.

Again I was surprised that Dave didn't mention his resignation directly in the keynote (though I understand he did address this announcement after I left the PUG meeting Monday). Maybe the PR guys are afraid to broach the subject or maybe Dave is reluctant to, but I think a better course would have been to embrace the facts and be straightforward with the audience. Maybe that's just me.

After the keynote, I had several User Council meetings. In general our council was very well received by both PalmSource and their licensees. While I can't share details of those meetings, the Palm community can rest assured that we're representing them well.

Meeting Justine Pratt
At a break I had the pleasure of meeting Justine of Creative Algorithms over coffee, which we'd intended to do during the week. She actually recognized me as I was heading back with coffee (one good side-effect of my picture on the blog) so we took time to connect and chat a while. I learned quite a bit about the business she and her husband run, and her connections to other Palm community folks like Sammy and Shaun. I enjoyed this chance to get to know Justine and her family's business story.

Lunch with Bob Russell
Following another set of internal meetings, I ran into Bob Russell of MobileRead.com at the lunch buffet tables. Bob and I have traded emails in the past year, so it was again nice to meet someone in person I've known only virtually. Over lunch we had a chance to share our backgrounds, interests and talk about Bob's difficult decision between a new Treo 650 and a LifeDrive.

PalmOne vs. Tapwave Stores
A friend of mine was very interested in an unlocked Treo 650 (GSM) for use in Europe, so I took a chance at 3pm to stand in the palmOne store line for about 30 minutes to pick one up. Later on I heard there was a limited supply of 50 LifeDrives (and 50 rain checks). I was fortunate to get through in about 25 minutes but some attendees waited as long as an hour and a half for devices.

The Tapwave folks also had a special deal on Zodiac packages, though sadly enough, their store was like a ghost town compared to the palmOne store. I should mention that Tapwave was selling devices earlier that day, but it was still an interesting comparison to observe.

Coffee with Russell Beattie & Ewan Spence
In the afternoon, I was able to connect with Russell Beattie, a fellow mobile device fan, blogger, and recent hire at Yahoo. He'd stopped to pick up a Zodiac at the show, and meet with Ewan Spence of AllAboutPalm.com.

Again, it was good to meet an online acquaintance in the flesh. It's always interesting to connect writing and small photos with the real people. Russ was much taller than I'd expected: my impression of him was that of a friendly, happy, mobile-minded wookie (minus the fuzzy outer coat). Ewan on the other hand, was straight out of Braveheart, complete with tartan kilt, sporran and a mediaeval shirt with a hand tied collar.

The three of us spent a little time in the hotel lobby over coffee, discussing the entire Mobile space as it related to PalmSource and palmOne. The general consensus around our table was that the Linux direction was welcomed, with some concerns about PalmSource's ability to shift quickly enough to get something compelling out the door to complete against Microsoft and Symbian.

Both guys were a complete riot to hang with and the time went entirely too quickly, but has been the case with my entire week. I'm finding that quantity of time is not so important as quality and often the most interesting discussions happen at the spur of the moment. Through this I've learned to be open at any time to chat with anyone.

Dinner & More Networking
Dinner was served in the exhibit hall, stocked with hot asian and Mexican foods to nibble on. Near one entrance stood a flowing fountain of chocolate sauce, which attendees could use to cover varied food items with a rich chocolaty coating. Dip-able food items included all sorts of fruit, pound cake, marshmallows and even chunks of Snicker bars. Mmm, good.

Spent a little time during and after dinner catching up with developers and friends, including a chat with a team working on an interesting sync solution (I hope to share more soon). It had been a long day, so it was good to retire to my room, for an evening of capturing travelogue notes, and keeping up on email before crashing for the night.

I was pleased with the meetings I was fortunate to have on Tuesday, with Justine, Bob, Russ and Ewan along with the many other folks I spoke with. Being a social person it's always a successful day when I am able to connect with others interested in similar things, like the mobile space.

Next up: Wednesday's report.

Friday
May272005

DevCon Short Status Report

You may have noticed that I've not yet posted any of my day's entries here since Day One at the DevCon. Well, I'm here to assure you all that I am indeed planning to post on each day in detail.

This year has been a much busier one in general and that's a great thing. I've talked in person to many people I know virtually and have met many interesting folks by intent and happenstance on at the DevCon. It's actually been a blast!

The unfortunate side effect of this is a reduced opportunity to write down my experiences more regularly. But be assured that I've taken detailed notes of my days (something learned after trying to write travelogues on the road) and will be expanding those into detailed posts over the weekend.

Overall, my impression of DevCon has been very positive, particularly for PalmSource and palmOne. I sense a bit of new energy around the Linux direction that hasn't been around for a while now. We'll see if that energy is maintained going forward.

So, I am soon off to my flight and back to Milwaukee. I'll post my entries here as I find the time over the weekend and probably early next week, so stop on back.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday
May242005

Palmsource DevCon: Day One

You know it's going to be a long day when the line for the security check snakes off past the airport Starbucks cart to another concourse. On Monday I was certain this was an omen of troubles to come. I was wrong. The line through security went surprisingly quickly, though the trip to San Jose would take longer than expected.

No WiFi at the terminal, even though it was promised on several signs on the way toward my gate. No matter, I decided to start reading and preserve the battery of the Powerbook. I'd brought along my copy of Microserfs (a fave of mine) to see how well the story resonated more than 10 years later. I'm happy to report Douglas Coupland's writing is still funny and natural.

Odd Luggage & Tight Squeezes
On the way out to the plane, I saw an older gent carrying a bowling ball, complete with the original AMF cardboard box, wrapped with his baby blue ball carrier. Only in Milwaukee would you see someone with a bowling ball as a carry-on. Well, Milwaukee and Cleveland.

Stuck on a small plane to Denver. Worse yet, stuck in the most cramped front seat next to a selfish, inconsiderate businessman, who hogged the space all the way to the Mile High City. By the time we reached Denver, I had a serious crick in my shoulder from the pretzel-like shape I'd adopted. Thanks buddy. Arg!

Meeting a Cool Google Dude
In Denver I grabbed a bite to eat, and boarded a Boeing 757 (thank the Lord!), ended up sitting next to a very cool guy from Google. We had quite a bit in common, chatting most of the way to Denver. He didn't share any top-secrets with me, though we had a good discussion on why I liked Google, on software tools, trends on technology, jazz, web and logo design, blogging, podcasting and more. I always enjoy being seated next to interesting people.

Got to San Jose at least 15 minutes late, due to headwinds. At the baggage claim I received two messages; one from User Council co-member Jen (PocketGoddess) and a second from Renee that David Nagel had resigned. Yow! I wondered what was up, with Nagel calling it quits on the eve of PalmSource's big DevCon.

Jen and I shared a cab into the Fairmont, where we checked in without fanfare. It felt good to be back at the hotel where I'd built good memories the year before. This time I'm in a 9th floor room, with a nice view of San Jose and prime viewing of incoming jets. I dunno if it's just me, but the low-flying jets over high-rise buildings freaks me out slightly. Must be a 9-11 thing.

Settled into the room, then connected with my partner in crime, Michael Ashby and his wife Holly. They had spent a nice anniversary weekend around Carmel and along the coast, enjoying some wonderful food, great wine and gorgeous scenery.

The DevCon Login
Next we were off to the DevCon to sign in and get our packets. The PalmSource backpack made a comeback this year, with a slightly different design and a bunch of items packed inside. I was most interested in an Audible coupon for one month of free subscription service. I'll have to sign up for an audiobook for the long trip home.

Michael stopped over to do his stint with the Computer Outlook Radio Show guys, John and Rich, just before their live show began at 5. If you're interested in hearing PalmSource's Larry Berkin, the director of DevCon and Kenny West of PalmGear, check out the audio archive (5.9MB MP3) of the segment. Actually, Computer Outlook is featuring folks from PalmSource all week long, so check out the Computer Outlook streaming archives and PalmSource's own podcast feed.

Nagel Resigns: Some Reasons, Maybe?
While hanging about, I learned that at least part of David Nagel's decision to step down as CEO was related to the declining health of his wife (due to cancer). Knowing this tidbit does put the news into perspective. I hope Mr. Nagel and PalmSource come right out and share this reason to cut the speculation going on and to be real with users, investors and developers. I admire Mr. Nagel for giving his family priority.

Ahhh, WiFi...
I finally had a chance to get connected to WiFi in the lobby. I'd hoped to catch someone's free signal in the hotel room, but I had no such luck. Well, at least on the DevCon floor, WiFi floods the airspace and is free for the absorbing.

Met my fellow User Council members down in the lobby and had a chance to catch up a bit in person. Oddly enough, we chat regularly in our IRC channel, so it's less a matter of catching up than it is show and tell with new devices and software. Geeks and their toys. :-)

Palm User Group Meeting
We all headed up for the Palm User Group meeting, sponsored by PalmSource and several developers. Saw several marketing spiels (the giveaways are always left for the end of the event). Dave Nagel spoke at the event, but made no mention of his resignation nor any of the reasons why he was resigning. Hmm. I really wished he'd said something directly about the issue — this pretending there's no elephant in the room seems the wrong tack in the Cluetrain age. C'mon PalmSource, get real with us!

Left early for a private dinner the User Council folks, myself and several others attended at a nearby restaurant. We were all a bit bummed to lose out on the freebie swag, but hey, you can't do it all. Dinner was quite good, with many interesting discussions and of course, good food. I enjoyed the best tiramisu I've tasted, since visiting Germany 4 years ago. Yum!

Back at the hotel I stopped down to the lobby to run a last check of email, where I met a woman from Cingular's developer division, who was trying to get her laptop on the WiFi network. She'd received some bogus info from someone at PalmSource (wrong SSID name) so I helped her sort things out. Had a nice chat about what we both did, and had a chance to share some info on SnapperMail which seemed suited to their enterprise focus. I love these kinds of spontaneous social meetings. in my opinion, these types of meetings are one of the best things about DevCon.

End of a Good, Long Day
And so it's begun, DevCon 2005. It seems the Palm OS on Linux should be the big deal at the event. I do hope PalmSource can finally clarify their OS strategy for developers and users. Having so many variations of their OS out in the wild really confuses people about what's what. Even I, who should know the intricacies of the OS variants feel pretty clueless, which is not good. I hope the next few days will provide a clear picture of where PalmSource is heading in the future.

I'll post a new entry tomorrow on my experiences on Tuesday. And be sure to check out other blog sites in the previous post, who are doing a much better job than I am with the latest scoops and technical details.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday
Nov042004

Cafe Bag Discovery

Mike's Cafe BagLast weekend I stumbled across a great new bag while creating an Indiana Jones costume for a party on Saturday. I wanted to share the details of my new "Cafe Bag" bag, in case you might be interested in picking one up for yourself.

First, I should offer my definition of a so-called "Cafe Bag" eh? It's a bag large enough to hold multiple 8.5x11 or A4 papers, sketchbooks or magazines, deep enough for library book toting or reference book carrying. It should also accommodate pencils, pens and other such items. I call it a Cafe Bag, since it's primarily used to carry my gear to the cafe for writing, sketching or reading over coffee.

As a home-office worker, I've found the change of atmosphere while working at a cafe helps turn on my creative juices. At other times, I'm just tired of the home office and need a change of scenery. Sometimes I'll bring along the Powerbook, but more often than not, I prefer analog tools such as a sketchbook or notebook, or on occasion, my Dana Wireless.

My Cafe Bag is a surplus US Army Map Case, bought from a local surplus and sporting goods store store for $12. It's constructed of heavy-duty 22 ounce cotton canvas and measures 12" tall x 8.5" wide x 4.5" deep. The spacious main compartment has a sewn-in divider and a flap with two snaps to secure the contents. There are even weather flaps at the top of the compartment to seal it from the elements.

A pocket is sewn onto the front interior part of the bag (and is the spot where the flap buttons snaps to) complete with an elastic pen and pencil holder. Mike as IndyThe bag has a single strap, attached by swiveling snaps to the back, so it can be worn over the shoulder or across the shoulder, messenger-style.

I've found that this bag can hold quite a bit of gear, because it expands up to 4.5 inches. The width and height are also perfect for carrying larger magazines (like Wired) or my Dana Wireless. I suspect smaller 12" Powerbooks and iBooks might fit in this bag, though I don't know if a Powerbook plus a padded shell would fit. I need to check the Apple Store to verify this some evening.

I've located similar Canvas Map Cases on the net, including Camping Survival.com, SoldierCIty, Frank Bee, Fatigues Army Navy, though local surplus stores may also have them.

So far I've been very pleased with my bag, so I can highly recommend this one if you can make use of a small, tough, flexible and very inexpensive bag.

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